Sometimes life gets too much. And given that I’m not confrontational by nature, when it comes to fight or flight, I run.
At the quarter-life stage, I’m not where I thought I’d be. When I got the graduate job I envisaged living in one of the newly built glamourous apartments in the centre of Leeds. I thought I’d have great hair, and wear high heels and make-up. Earning a fabulous salary, I’d probably have a Mulberry handbag or two and shop at Harvey Nichols at the weekend.
In reality, it’s not a swanky one bedroom flat but a shared house with a mouse infestation and a mouldy bathroom. In reality, I could afford nicer clothes as a student than as a forty-hour a week worker.
I honestly can’t remember whether I thought I’d enjoy my work when I got the job. I think I at least hoped it would offer some mental stimulation, challenge me and reward me for my efforts. I think I expected to be successful in my job so long as I put the effort in.
In reality, work numbs me. During working hours I’m unable to crack even a smile at jokes. I count down time until I’m allowed out. My face is frozen into a glassy stare, my brain feels as useless as a bowl of jelly. I often fail at simple tasks, so impotent is my intellectual capacity in the work environment.
I can’t remember the point when I decided that I was rubbish at my job, but there was a definite shift in my attitude. I used to try, and, if I messed up, try a bit harder. After a while I realised that I wasn’t getting anywhere by trying hard. I didn’t have ‘it’, whatever the auditor’s ‘it’ factor is. Logical, mathematical ideas that come to my colleagues easily completely elude me.
When I messed up I stopped trying harder in response, I just got increasingly fed up. The more fed up I got, the more my mind numbed and wandered. The less focused I was, the more I messed up.
I continued with the sole intention of surviving to the other side of the exams, when I could get out. Unfortunately that same logic and mathematical ability I lacked at work did not magically appear for the exams. When it came to the numerical papers I slogged my heart out. I defy anyone to say that they put in more hours or exertion than I did.
Just like with work, though, trying hard did not translate into success. It seemed the harder I tried, the harder I failed.
So as appraisal time came around, and pay rises dished out, I was bottom of the pile. My sleek and shiny vision of the twenty-something me grew further from my reach. I didn’t think I’d be living the student lifestyle at this stage, sharing a house, bickering over phone bills, putting up with other people’s noise. I had no concept that taking on a graduate level job in a glossy corporation would mean this.
In reality, I don’t have the great hair and clear complexion I’d visualised. Unhealthy from ready meals, caffeine overdoses and sugar-laden energy boosts. Unfit from having no time, energy or inclination to exercise. So the reality is worse skin than I ever endured as a teenager. It’s also being disturbingly unfit and having an addiction to carbs and caffeine.
It’s not the dream I was sold. It’s not the life I was buying into when I signed the contract. And when it comes to fight or flight, I’m running. I’m running as fast as my weakened, caffeine-soaked and sugar-coated body will let me. I’ve got to keep on running.